Sunday, 25 September 2016

Season review : the County Championship

When Derbyshire took to the field for the season opener, back in April, there were six players in the side who look unlikely to be around in 2017.

Making such an assertion may appear presumptuous, but Andy Carter left mid-season, having failed to show the form that suggested he could be a leader of the attack, while Luke Fletcher's loan period was memorable only for being unmemorable. Hamish Rutherford had a hugely disappointing summer, while Tom Poynton had to retire midway through with a recurrence of the injury that had so sadly interrupted his career.

Meanwhile Wes Durston and Chesney Hughes have vanished without a trace in recent weeks and we now know that the latter will not be around in 2017. It made for a difficult summer in the four-day game, when the attack's crippling lack of experience left them exposed, on good early summer wickets, to batsmen who were happy to drink at the well, with conditions heavily weighted in their favour. 

Only the evergreen Tony Palladino exceeded thirty wickets, although both Will Davis and Ben Cotton produced displays that hinted of progress and potential. Both need to develop greater consistency, although time is very much on their side. Late in the season Tom Milnes produced displays with bat and ball that suggested he could also develop into a useful cricketer, given opportunity.

Tom Taylor missed most of the season with a stress fracture, while Greg Cork only got a game in the final fixture, which put additional pressure on the excellent Shiv Thakor. He had a splendid season with bat and ball, until his workload possibly caused a back injury that ruled him out of the closing weeks.

Alex Hughes was another who was largely ignored until the last few matches, when opportunity gave him the chance to bat three. He did a good job, registering a career-best century and staking a claim for the role next year, although his bowling may be of greater use in the one-day game, moving forward.

The side cried out as much for a quality spinner as it did for a strike seamer, Mark Footitt being sorely missed. Matt Critchley bowled beautifully in the one-day game, but struggled to take wickets in the longer format, while Callum Parkinson showed potential in a handful of outings but opted to take up a contract with Leicestershire for 2017. With Tom Knight's promising career ruined, at least for now, with too much tinkering and Wes Durston only playing one-day cricket latterly, the club has to address a major weakness over the winter.

In a summer where new regulations over the toss gave the visiting side the option to bowl before one took place, batsmen were always likely to prosper - and did. Seven players ended with an average in excess of forty, the star once again being Wayne Madsen. He started with a century in the first match and maintained form throughout the summer, ending with an average in the top fifties and underlining once more how important he is to the side. His player of the year award was both fully deserved and a racing certainty.

Skipper Billy Godleman enjoyed a solid summer too, just missing out on a thousand runs despite missing early matches with a hand injury. Madsen and Godleman will be key players in the Derbyshire side going forward. Ben Slater struggled for a starting role initially, but let no one down when he did and staked a strong claim as an established player for next year.

Meanwhile, Chesney Hughes started well, suffered a lean patch and then was omitted from the side without explanation, when in sight of a thousand runs. His announced departure is disappointing, but the club must now move forward without a player in whose development a lot of time has been invested.

Shiv Thakor emerged from a difficult 2015 to enjoy a prolific summer, looking stylish and fluent whenever he batted. The club has high hopes of the player, as do I, with international aspirations not at all unrealistic.

Sadly, two players of international reputation, Hamish Rutherford and Neil Broom, failed, each averaging only in the mid-twenties. Frustratingly they often got starts, only to give it away. Engaged in crucial overseas roles, neither justified the cost and while Broom has a chance to make amends next year, Rutherford will be remembered as a batsman capable of brilliance, but too fleetingly to prove worthwhile.

Behind the stumps, Tom Poynton started well, before that ankle injury forced his premature retirement from the game. The county will be the poorer - and quieter  - for that, although late in the season Harvey Hosein confirmed his rich potential with bat and ball, playing a succession of composed innings that suggested the role will be in good hands. With Gary Wilson signed from Surrey to push him from next season, it should be one area of the side where we have few concerns.

Bottom of the table tells its own story, Some good cricket was played, but the inexperience of the attack meant that watching Derbyshire was like watching a boxer with an arm tied behind his back, However many runs we scored, the opposition were always likely to score many more. It made for a depressing summer, saved only by some improved performances in the one-day game (review to follow).

John Sadler took over mid-season and did well through a difficult summer. He remains a good coach and engaging man but it is anyone's guess as to who is in charge next year. Graeme Welch took over at a difficult time and gave a good grounding to a young squad. The person confirmed in the role, whether Sadler or anyone else, has to infuse youth of some talent with quality, contributing experience. Far too many seniors, for one reason or another, didn't do that this year.

While the batting, perhaps with the addition of a couple of young players for competition, will hold its own another year, an experienced seam bowler and spinner, bowling to their reputation, are the minimum requirements for an improvement in 2017.

The young players will continue to improve and while some will 'top out', there is enough talent emerging to justify longer term optimism.

Finding that right blend will decide whether that is justified.


Dave said...

According to the ECB website 5 Derbyshire batsmen averaged over 40 in the championship,Hosein and McDonnell being two of them who only played 5 games in total.Seven averaging 40+ would have seen us with more bonus points and possibly some wins.

Peakfan said...

More bonus points Dave but we just couldnt bowl sides out. Until we find a strike bowler and spinner, or get sustained performance from younger lads, we will struggle in 4 day cricket

Steve H said...

No criticism of Tom, but he couldn't have retired at a better time. Sometimes you stand in the way of a force that becomes so strong you have to give way to it, and anyone who has seen Harvey over the years gaining strength and ability, well that tipping point was coming.

Tom's injury and subsequent retirement was so sad, because of it's origins, but he was swimming against that onrushing tide anyway, and would have had seen probably, injured or not, that someone would soon be shouting his number in.

No shame in that either, it will happen to Harvey one day in the future, but let's give this " Bob Taylor " talent all the room and encouragement he needs to be, as Bob, " Derbyshire and England".

Fanciful? Let's see in three or four years.

Peakfan said...

He is already a better bat than Bob. If he gets to that standard behind the stumps he will be very special...